No Right Turn is the kind of movie for which no explanation is given; its only requirement is that we observe. Since the meaning of the film beyond the plot must be interpreted, it might also be so much more than it seems.
The title, I think, refers to an incident revealed halfway through the movie, in which one of the characters made a left turn and not a right turn, leading to horrific consequences. This incident might say more or less than you think. Is it about the inevitability and the aftermath of tragedy? Does it have something to do with the way that we are shaped by guilt and the power of personal relationships? Or is there something more concrete at work here? It’s hard to say, and that mystery is part of its allure, but there are all kinds of unseen connections within the film that might help to illuminate its philosophy.
Most of the film is simply content to follow the lives of the characters that occupy its world. There is Nina (Laura Bach), who often has to put up with her obnoxious but protective husband, Johnny (Tao Hildebrand), a man who dreams big but goes nowhere, and the connection she makes with Monella (Sira Stampe), a lonely artist who saves Nina from an assault. Actually, all of the major characters seem to have some kind of art, but somehow these instruments of art always end up being used as weapons of destruction.
During that time, a lot of the film is kept alive by the style, which doesn’t necessarily do anything innovative but nevertheless reaches beyond its stature as a small independent film. The vibrant contrast between neon blue and yellow colors reminds me of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which itself was a far departure from the old, darkly, black and white noirs. No Right Turn has an urban and modern feel and the kind of expertly chosen locations that look as if they house the dregs of society. These settings are intercut with a detached, snowy wasteland that feels like an isolated dream world. The seedy jazz and melancholy music play against each other to enhance the mystery of the film, which has a certain restraint but also a boldness to it too.
The last act of the movie changes quickly into a crime drama, and it is at point that the film becomes more of a wrenching, tense thriller during which much or little is revealed. I don’t mean thriller in the sense of nonstop action; I mean it in the sense of a slow, brooding buildup during which the laconic movements only increases the restlessness toward a final resolution. This section of the film is sort of detached; you can see how it is the perfect ending to the film, but it still feels like more of an event, rather than a culmination. However, the film still might have to be viewed a second time just to put the rest of it in context. It’s not like there are any great mysteries to the film that haven’t been revealed throughout its course, but what can be debated is the purpose of the film and the experience that the audience goes through.
Perhaps No Right Turn doesn’t have the power of great pulpy drama – its characters are interesting and eccentric but not quite as memorable. However, it does have the proper components – the fateful romance, the threat and eventual reality of violence, and the desperation that eventually foments crime. There is only occasional violence and nudity, but there still manages to be a sensuality and disorder raging beneath the surface. And so writer/director David Noel Bourke has created a competent film that is worth a view for fans of these kinds of movies and perhaps movies of all kinds.
David Noel Bourke (director)/David Noel Bourke (screenplay)
CAST: Sira Stampe … Monella
Laura Bach … Nina
Tao Hildebrand … Johnny
Lars Lippet … Teddy
Sami Darr … Pedro